I’m Back…

Hi friends … I know, I know. It’s been a long time. To say that the summer (okay, and I guess I have to say fall since we are more than a month in now)  was pretty busy. I assure you, I’ve been teaching, I’ve been training, I’ve been working, I’ve been enjoying life … but I think it’s pretty obvious what I haven’t been doing.

But I’m back. I know that before my short (okay, let’s be honest, it’s been like 4 months) hiatus I promised to be better about blogging. Clearly, I did not follow through. So I’m only going to promise that I’m going to try.

So, what have I been up to since (gulp) June? Quite a lot, to be honest. Sometimes I start to wonder how I have time to sleep, let alone breathe. I’m still teaching regularly, but my schedule has changed a bit (we’ll get to that). In July, I spent the annual week at the beach with the family. In August/September, I had the pleasure of attending my girl Emily’s wedding (my first trip to New Hampshire), and the boy and I returned to Hawaii (six days for me … a month for him). I got to the pool whenever I could on the weekends. Football season started, so I’m spending a lot of time watching ESPN (yes, often on the treadmill or elliptical).

As I mentioned, my teaching schedule has changed pretty dramatically in the last couple months. I first cut back on my Sunday classes, and eventually just gave them up all together. I loved teaching them, and I’d been on Sundays for what seems like forever … but at this point in my life, I knew that the only way I was going to get the balance that I really needed into my life was to actually have real weekends. So I cut back (just in time for the boy to start what I can only call insane amounts several weeks at a time of work travel … which is finally close to winding down). In September, I made another change – giving up my Piloxing class on Wednesday nights. I haven’t had the time to put into the prep that I really needed to give the class my all, and I was offered a cycle class at Sport&Health around the same time (and after a year of subbing and turning down my group fitness director – because I was already teaching on the nights she could offer me a permanent class). I decided that it was a good move – and a good change – for me at this point. I was proud to turn the class over to my girl Kim, who had worked hard training with me throughout most of the previous year. I’m sure she’s doing great … I mean, she did train with me and all 😉 So  yes, I’m teaching a ton of cycle now (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday). But I’ve never made it a secret that cycle is my favorite class to teach (and pretty easy to prep for).

That said … life has been crazy, and I apologize for my absence. I know I’ve said I’ll place more priority on blogging (and quite honestly, I’ve thought about it many, many times without actually taking the initiative to, you know, write a post), and I do mean it. I’m going to try my best to be back and present, friends. And if you are in the NOVA area … come take a class with me:

Tuesdays (XSport Alexandria): 6 p.m. Cycle, 7:15 p.m. Pilates

Wednesdays (Sport&Health Skyline): 6:15 p.m. Cycle

Thursdays (XSport Alexandria): 6 p.m. Cycle

…and I tend to pick up weekend classes when the boy is out of town, so I’ll keep you posted on the “bonus” classes I’ll occasionally teach.


Cutting Back is Hard to Do.

As you may know by, 1. my lack of posts throughout the last two months, and 2. the fact that I apologize for it every time I manage to get a post out, life has been pretty hectic here in 2014. I’m still getting my workouts in, classes are great, work is fine, the boy is wonderful … but I feel like I’m constantly running (and not in the way I like to be).

The last six months of my life have been pretty whirlwind. I started a new (more demanding … and significantly better paying) job. I met my Marine (which made me realize that there really are great guys out there … even if I sometimes call him a jerkface, I can’t over look the fact that he took me to a ball and Hawaii). I’ve made new friends, seen new places, and, as my mother would say, finally allowed myself to have somewhat of a life outside of the gym and work. Granted, it hasn’t all been great – I (barely) survived the government shutdown a mere three weeks into my new job, and seriously, if the longest winter of all time is not behind us, I may completely lose it. But overall, I’m probably in the best place I’ve been in a long time.

However, with the good, I’ve realized that while I’d like to be, I’m not superwoman. I can’t do it all, no matter how hard I try. At the end of the day, I’m exhausted. Life has been a treadmill, and it’s been set at a 9-mile an hour pace (whereas my average running pace usually hovers more around 7). I’ve had to really look at what I can do to find a fraction of time in my life and start to catch my breath before I pass out. And it’s led me to do something that has me still struggling with some mixed feelings.

I’ve been teaching two classes on Sunday mornings for more than three and a half years now. And while I love my classes, I’m exhausted. I’m not making enough time for myself and the people and activities that are important to me outside of the gym. Which is why, though it was a hard decision to make, I’m stepping back a little.

Tomorrow is my last Sunday double. I’ll still be teaching Pilates every other week, but I just feel like at this point in my life, it’s too much for me to be committed to every week. Though it should already be, I still want to make it clear that I thought long and hard, and struggled with what I really wanted to do. I’ve thought about it for months, and even asked back in November if there was any way to find an alternate schedule. Unfortunately, I was only able to make it work for one class.

It’s tough to give up my Piloxing class, though. Honestly, it’s something I’m really proud of. I’ve built the format from scratch, introducing something totally new to a club that drinks the Les Mills koolaid by the keg. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished with that group. I’ve seen many of my regulars become stronger, fitter…heck, I’ve watched a couple of them fall so in love with the format they became certified instructors. And I’m so glad I’ll still get to play with them every Wednesday.

This will be a change for me. I won’t have an alarm wake me up every Sunday. I won’t have to turn down plans because I have to teach in the morning (or I’m teaching during said plans). I’ll be able to go out of town without having to beg someone to cover a class for me. It’s definitely a change, and change is good. I’ll miss seeing those faces every week…but I’ve also missed having a life.

So there it is, the big news. The rest of my schedule is staying the same, so I’ll update on the new schedule early next week.

Strong-Fit-Beautiful Turns 2!

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Today is an exciting day here at Strong-Fit-Beautiful … we are turning 2! I would have never imagined that, when I took my girl Helen’s advice and started writing about what I love, it would have turned into something so incredible. I’ve been blessed that, as a result, I’ve had a lot of great opportunities – and been able to share a lot of great stories and advice – along the way. I’ve “met” some great people from around the world who are here for the same reason I am – because health and fitness are my passion, my love, the one thing that I can always get excited to talk about.

One thing that a lot of people don’t know about me is that I’m not naturally as outgoing and enthusiastic as I am when fitness is involved. While there is no greater feeling than stepping in front of a class, and chatting with those who have, truly, become my friends week in and week out, I can be pretty shy. I have a hard time letting people in a lot of the time. Which is why I think that I love teaching – I have the opportunity to be someone else. To be the me I wish I was. To feel like, even if only for a short time, I’m not being criticized or judged. In a lot of ways, I get the same feeling when I’m sharing my posts and communicating with all of you – it’s incredibly rewarding. Makes me feel as if I’m making a difference. Having an impact. And at the end of the day, that is the one thing I want out of my life – to know that I have made someone’s life better.

When I first started Strong-Fit-Beautiful, I was in kind of a sad place. I’d recently  had my heart broken – again – and I often found myself wondering if I had wasted many of my “good” years, too focused on the things that didn’t mean as much to me, and not enough on the ones that really did. I felt like I’d done a lot of work, lived a lot of life, and maybe didn’t have too much to show for it. But the truth is, I have realized that it’s the lows that make the highs that much sweeter. And there really is something better just around the corner – and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that when we feel we’ve been given all we can handle, the prize for surviving is within our reach (I can honestly say that in the last six months, I’ve had a lot more highs than lows … and everything kind of all hit at once … and yes, I wasn’t sure I could get any lower before that trend started a rapid climb upward). There have been many ups and downs since then, and though I don’t make a practice of sharing too much personal stuff too often, I’m glad to say that while life isn’t perfect right now, it is looking pretty good. I know that I have a lot of great people around me, supporting me, loving me and standing by me through those ups and downs. And I’m fortunate enough to do what I love part-time … even if it is only a few hours a week, teaching classes is truly the best food my soul could ever hunger for.

But enough of the sappy stuff, right? I’ve had a really great time writing Strong-Fit-Beautiful these last two years, and I’ve had some amazing opportunities come out of it. I’ve been fortunate to connect with some other incredible bloggers, both here in the U.S. and across the world. I’ve met a few of my readers here in the local area, and I’ve even enjoyed my five minutes of fame when one of my classes was featured on the morning local ABC news. I’ve had some great laughs from some of your comments (trust me, it makes me feel much more normal knowing that some of the same weird crap I see in my gym is not exclusive to my area … there are weirdos all over). More than anything, I’ve had FUN doing something I love (writing), and even more fun getting to discuss one of my favorite topics (fitness) on the regular.

So, to all of you who have helped Strong-Fit-Beautiful become what it is today … THANK YOU! You’re the best. As long as you’ll keep reading, I’ll keep sharing. I  know I haven’t been as good as of late about keeping up as I have in the past, but life has been crazy, so I’m trying my best (as my mom says, it’s tiring having a life, isn’t it? It’s something that’s kind of new to me). Here’s to another year of fun and fitness!


Back from My Hawaiian Adventure (Part 2)!

Let me first apologize for omitting one major point in Part 1 of my Hawaii recap … we definitely saw sea turtles while we were surfing on the North Shore. How I missed this, I’m not quite sure, because I was pretty excited about it (thanks to the boy for, 1. noticing that I missed one of the highlights of my surfing experience, and 2. reading my blog). They were pretty cool.

So, while yesterday was about surfing, today is about some of the other ways we kept ourselves active in paradise. We were fortunate in that we stayed at a resort with both running trails and a pretty nice (definitely above hotel standard) gym. We took advantage of both once in the three days we were in the North Shore.

As I mentioned yesterday, the weather was warm the entire trip, but overcast and rainy for all but the first two days (and the few hours we were out surfing with instructor Mike). We woke up on Saturday to overcast skies and drizzle, and figured it was a good time to check out one of the trails along the resort. It was pretty cool to run through the forest, next to the ocean. I wouldn’t say we were exactly pushing ourselves – enough to raise our heart rates and get a little sweaty (not a surprise, based on the temperature and humidity) – but there were so many beautiful things to see along the trail that we had to stop a few times just to take it all in. There was something between a drizzle and a light rain falling during most of the run, but it was actually really nice. I’m the type who is sweating within about three seconds, and is easily drained once the temperature gets above 70 degrees, so the additional cool from the rain was welcome. I will say, though, being accustomed to running on a treadmill … running trails is TOUGH! We had to maneuver around trees, fallen coconuts, and yes, even horse “presents,” as we trekked through the sand. The instability of the ground definitely made it a lot harder, and my lower legs were feeling it a little the next day (or maybe it was just because at one point I slightly twisted my ankle on a rock).

One ugly afternoon we decided to hit the gym. It was one of our less active days – we drove a bit farther up north to check out the scenery and some of the local shops (and discovered an amazing Mexican restaurant) and took a nap, but little else – so we figured we had better do a little something. It was getting close to the end of the trip, and I think we both were at the point that we were starting to miss our regular workout routines. And maybe feeling a little guilty?

Other than the surfing, running and gymming, we also did a ton of walking. Between walking to dinner or shopping in Waikiki, walking around the sites at Pearl Harbor (there was actually a lot more to see than I had realized – ships, submarines, planes, and museums explaining all of them…), and walking around to see some of the local sites, we definitely logged several miles each day.

Overall, the trip was amazing – and proved that just because you are on vacation (in paradise, when the snow is falling at home) doesn’t mean you have an excuse to be inactive and eat or drink whatever you want (though, admittedly, we did have some great food and drinks … probably why we put some form of physical activity on our list of priorities). But, just like it’s always great to get away, it’s always great to get back to routine, too. Back to home sweet home and the normal grind!

Check Out My Recent Interview!

I had an opportunity recently to do an interview with Lola over at Christsoldiergirl Fitness, and wanted to share the link for you to find out a little more about what makes me tick: http://christsoldiergirlfitness.com/csg-fitness-interview-with-strong-fit-beautiful/ We had a chance to discuss my background, how I got my start, what keeps me going … all kinds of good stuff.

Many thanks to Lola for taking the time to feature me on her blog – and, oddly enough, she just happened to post the interview last Tuesday (clearly life has been a little crazy lately if I’m just getting around to sharing the link now) … which was also my 33rd birthday! Hope you have a chance to check it out and see what she’s been up to as well!



How Can You Teach if You Can’t Talk?

Well, as I learned yesterday, it isn’t easy.

I’ve been fighting one thing or another (cold, sinus infection, whatever it’s morphed into now) pretty much since Christmas. It started with a tickle in my throat on Christmas morning, which I assumed was a result of my parents’ dry house, and those terrible incense they spread around at Midnight Mass. By that weekend, I had no voice. And by New Year’s, I was sniffling and sneezing. There were a few good days in there somewhere, and then last Monday, the sinus headache creeped in. Tuesday, I felt like death might be a good option. Finally, by Thursday, I thought I was in the clear. Friday, I woke up with a case of laryngitis that was definitely worse than the one I’d been through a few weeks earlier (I still sound like a frog who has spent the last 40 years chain smoking).

Which brings me to my question of the day: how can you teach if you can’t talk?

In another case of “make it work,” I found out yesterday. I was squeaking out little more than a whisper most of Saturday and Sunday, so let’s say that making through one class would have been tough enough. Yet I forced myself to make it through two.

It kind of puts into perspective how difficult it can be to do something that normally comes so easy. It was torture to not only bring the same sense of excitement that I like to bring to my classes. But at the same time, it was so nice to see some of my regulars take charge, help me out with the counts, or demonstrate something as I tried mightily – and unsuccessfully – to vocalize.

The one thing I really feared the most – even more than not being able to get the class to do what I wanted with some hand gestures and a squeak – was that people would leave, or tell me that it was terrible. A couple people left, but I’m used to one or two walking out before the end of class on any given day (heck, half the time I look up from my final stretches at the end of my cycle class, and the studio that had been full 10 minutes earlier is only at quarter-capacity). For the most part, people were very understanding. I got a lot of well-wishes on my way out the door. And though I know that I was certainly up to the standard I’d like to be during class, I was proud of myself for making it through.

My voice, however? I probably did some kind of irreversible damage to my vocal cords by pushing instead of resting them. But as any instructor will tell you – you do what you have to do sometimes!

The Gym in January: People Watching Gold.

I love people watching. I always have. One of my favorite classes in college was an interpersonal communication class, in which the teacher sent us out one day with instructions to watch people – and then report back the next class (I’m pretty sure we were looking for something specific, but it’s been like 12 years, so give me a break). The gym can be a great place to people watch – for numerous reasons. And it tends to be even better in January.

Tonight’s post was inspired by the girl I witnessed doing something that looked like a cross between the Chicken Dance and jumping jacks. Now, I’ve taken a lot of classes (and taught a lot of classes) that required me to do some odd thing from time to time. But in the middle of the gym? Not usually. Which got me thinking about some of the top “what are they thinking?” moments I’ve encountered throughout the years.

Cirque du Soleil. Now that football and pool season is behind us, I’m not getting to the gym quite as early on Saturday mornings … but for a while there, I’d get a (people-watching) treat on my way out. There were three people who, for some unknown reason, would practice what I can only describe as Cirque du Soleil … in the middle of the cardio floor. Not in a studio, not even in a somewhat less-traveled space, but right in front of the escalators to the cardio floor. Weird.

Old Lady REALLY Likes Her Weights. This one dates all the way back to my Clemson old bookstore while the real gym is under renovation days. This woman enjoyed lifting weights. REALLY enjoyed lifting her weights (think Meg Ryan in “When Harry Met Sally”). It was uncomfortable to be around. I may still have nightmares.

Competition Prep. I get that fitness competitions require participants to strut around in a couple sequins and sky-high heels that would make a stripper blush.  But do you really need to “practice” (strut around) the gym floor? At least go into a studio. And please… keep the lights dim. Because I can’t decide if I want my body to look like yours or I want to give you my sweatshirt.

Overzealous exercisers. Yesterday morning, I saw a guy I actually feared would fly off of the elliptical he was working – at about 100 miles an hour. Here’s the thing … the resistance is adjustable on those things. You’re going to get more out of it if you slow it down and add some resistance.

Sweaty twins. For a while there, I thought there was only one of them … but they are in fact two. These girls spend at least an hour on the stepmill, going pretty quickly, and sweating EVERYWHERE. Never a towel in sight. Wearing long sleeves. Mind you, these girls are extremely thin. There is no reason they need to be working that hard or losing any extra water weight.

So … what have you seen around the gym? Is January your favorite people watching time, with all the Resolutioners running (or panting, or wandering confusedly) around the gym?

How Not to Annoy the Regulars

Welp, it’s January. For us regular gym goers, it’s the worst time of the year. For maybe 3% of those gung ho about their resolutions to get fit, it’s the beginning of a lifestyle.

Last week, I wrote a post about how newbies can successfully get started on their new workout routines. Now that the gym is starting to fill up, and all the regulars are feeling their style a little more than cramped, I wanted to share a few suggestions to the new folks – trust me, follow these bits of advice, and you won’t stick out like sore thumb.

Just park already. One thing I’ve never been able to figure out are the people who drive around in circles, hunting for a parking spot close to the entrance. HELLO! You are at a gym! WALK!

Clean your machines when you are done. I watched a woman sweat all over a treadmill yesterday, then just walk away. Gyms stock wipes and/or cleaner every five feet for a reason – because nobody wants to touch your sweat (heck, I don’t want to touch my own sweat). It’s cold and flu season, people. Don’t be nasty.

Be mindful of other peoples’ space. I’ve never understood the people who will just waltz in and park themselves an inch away from you. Or those who take over entire sections of the gym (and more often than not, are doing nothing). I actually overheard a regular talking to one of the managers yesterday … describing the situation in which a guy tried to fight him after he encroached on the space he clearly was already using (yes, I was eavesdropping, because I couldn’t believe this actually happened).

Always re-rack your weights. Nothing makes me crazier than tripping over dumbells (usually close to my bodyweight) or not being able to find what I’m looking for. Use it, put it away. Your mother doesn’t work in your gym (and if she’s like mine, she’d make you clean up after yourself, anyway).

Stop creeping. Yes, machines are at a premium this time of year. That is no excuse to sit there and stare at someone, willing them to finish what they are doing so you can pounce on their machine (yes, this happened to me tonight. Girl was STARING at me a foot away from my treadmill. It was a little unsettling).

…and stop waiting while you’re at it. Just because you have your heart on a run today doesn’t mean you don’t have plenty of other options. While I may not like it, on many occasions I’ve changed up my plan simply because I’d rather spend my gym time working, rather than waiting. Try something new instead of just standing around!

Most of all, never be afraid to ask questions. Those of us who are just as likely to be in the gym on July 1 as we are on January 1 will respect you a lot more if you make an effort to learn the how and why of what you are doing, rather than wandering aimlessly around the gym (or worse yet, ending up injured as a result of bad form). Good luck – the effort is worth it!

For When Your Workout Motivation is Lacking…

Most people can come up with a good excuse to skip a workout. When faced with one of these times, it can be smart to follow this easy flow-chart to help you get a little more motivated to get yourself to the gym:

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See the original here. Thanks to my mom for sending it my way!

Don’t Be a “Resolutioner” – Be a Lifer!

So, you’ve made the decision to get fit this year. You’ve told everyone about your resolution, bought some new workout gear, and you’re ready to go.

Or are you?

This is a good question to ponder as you go about starting your new routine. It’s easy to get excited, but for many, that enthusiasm  wears off as time goes on, and what was once your goal for 2014 is now your “eh, maybe next year.”

What can you do to make sure your commitment to get fit turns into a lifestyle, rather than just a passing phase? Here are a few tips to try on for size:

Make a plan. Know your schedule, know your body, and know what you want to accomplish. I’ll never be an early-morning, before work workout person – but I have the discipline to still get to the gym every night. Find the time and place that works for you. It can be a gym, a studio, or that old treadmill in your basement or DVD in your living room, whatever you know you’ll enjoy doing.

Hire a trainer. Or nutritionist. Or both. Depending on your goals, you may need to bring in the expert. Most people (myself included) don’t realize how much they don’t know until they hire a professional. I went to the gym for six years before I hired a trainer … and in six months I saw more results than I did in those six years going it alone.

Share your goal … and stick to it. Peer pressure doesn’t stop in high school. If you really want to change your life this year, don’t your food-pusher family talk you into a doughnut, or your social circle force you to skip a workout. It’s your life, and you decide what you make of it.

Have FUN! Remember when you were a kid and you used to run around the backyard? It was fun, right? It was also exercise. So whatever you choose to do, make it fun, and you’ll be more likely to stick with it.  Find a class, a running group, or a workout partner to look forward to seeing when it’s exercise time.

Diets don’t work. Sporadic exercise doesn’t work. What does? Keeping with your commitment, and embracing a healthy lifestyle. I’m not saying treats are forever off the table (I’ll admit to my own killer sweet tooth), or that you have to live in the gym – but like so many other areas of our lives, it’s a matter of maintaining balance. You get out what you put in. It will not be easy. Some days you may hurt. Some days that cake may not stop screaming your name. You will fall down. But you have to get back up. Hope to still be seeing you around the gym in March!